A Note To Caregivers: from Linda Spalla (February)
Much is written today about being a caregiver. Not much is said about being the caregivEE, the one receiving the caregiving. Spending some time on that now will save you worlds of trouble in your future and make the journey lighter for those who end up caring for you some day. I’d like to share some suggestions based on what I learned caring for my mom. Most of these messages come from my book, Catch Your Breath by Linda Spalla.
Where do you start your thinking on how to be the ideal caregivEE? Well, surprisingly, you start right now … today. Communicate with your children, spouse or other family members and decide together what the future will look like.
Do you want to stay in your home and tough it out alone?
Do you want to move to a facility where there are multiple options for independent living, assisted living, or nursing home?
Do you want to hire other people to take care of you in your home? If so, do you have long-term care insuranc?
Do you want to move to be near your family and live in their home?
Believe me, your children and maybe even your spouse might run from this conversation, but make them sit still and have it with you. The clearer the future, the less the hurt and confusion.
Get your proverbial house in order.
How are you doing with your personal health habits? Are you overweight? Are you getting regular exercise? Are you eating a healthy diet? Are you still smoking? Start actively pursuing a better path to good health.
Are you taking entirely too much medicine and working to disconnect from this dependency?
Do you have all your records, wills, lock box and investments in a special place where family can find them?
Have your kids signed all the correct paperwork to access your bank accounts and lock box?
Do you have an executor named for your estate?
Do you have a durable Power of Attorney?
Do you have a medical directive which is more legal than a living will?
Do you have an attorney and CPA standing by to help when the time comes?
What are the golden pearls to success? Here’s what my mother taught me:
Empathy – She knew she was a burden to my daily life and tried every way possible not to be. She never complained!
Forgiveness – Mother never held my fits of anger, frustration or harsh words against me.
Gratitude – Nightly at bedtime she would cup my face in her hands thanking me for taking care of her and ending with, “I love you, precious.”
Cooperation – Mother was easy to cooperate whether it was about taking her medicine, staying with a sitter, or being satistified with whatever I prepared for her daily meals.
Be receptive to new ideas: I suggested she make an audio tape for each grandchild in her voice retracing some of her fondest memories of their lives. She was resistent at first but relaxed and did a great job.
I told her how little I knew about her upbringing and we walked down that lane of memories together. I discovered that she ran off to marry my Dad against her mother’s wishes and the reason she married was to get away from home. Only to discover how wonderful her new married life was with my Dad.
Be understanding that your caregiver is stressed to the max and doing the best they can.
Say lots of prayers and have daily devotionals with your caregiver.
Keep your mind engaged: read, do crosswords, learn how to use and enjoy an iPad. Don’t demand constant attention from your caregiver.
Maintain a wisp of your previous life – If you loved to play bridge, continue. Or if not bridge, maybe Skipbo or Canasta. If you loved to remember friends, send cards every week to those who are sick or facing crisis.
Redefine good. In our later years, a good day may just be not feeling nausous or having a conversation with a grandchild. Good doesn’t have to mean what you did in your 50’s and 60’s.
This template will set you up for a good time of your life, depending on health, etc. Getting old and being in dependent care of whatever sort doesn’t have to be horrible. It will be whatever you make it. Just because you’re at the end of your life journey doesn’t mean that you can’t still have some gentle control. It doesn’t mean that you somehow have escaped being responsible for the state of your affairs. You will still be a product of your decision-making.
Make some good ones both now…and then. As Wayne Dyer says, Manifest Your Destiny!
Godspeed on your caregiving journey.
P.S. Just to be clear, being a caregivEE doesn’t necessarily mean you are old or ill! Last week, I fell in one split second and broke my knee cap, followed by surgery, intense pain and the humbling experience of accepting help and caregiving from family and friends. I must still have lessons to learn!
Linda has written a raw, honest series of meditations for caregivers based on her experiences in caring for her own mother. These will evoke both laughter and tears as they offer insight and courage to those caught in the caregiving web.